|Serial killer Edward A. Surratt confessed decades-old murders so he could leave a Florida prison and spend the rest of his days in a South Carolina prison, the Beaver Township police chief says.
Surratt, 65, formerly of Aliquippa, Pa., has been serving two life terms plus 100 years in Hardee Correctional Institution, Bowling Green, Fla. He's been incarcerated since October 1978 on burglary and sexual-battery convictions.
He also has two life terms waiting for him in South Carolina for killing a 66-year-old man and beating and raping the man's wife. A prison Web site lists Surratt's aliases and shows he has a mom-and-dad heart tattoo on his right arm.
Beaver Township Police Chief Carl N. Frost said Surratt confessed committing four murders in the township in the late 1970s.
Surratt also said he killed Renee Gregor, 16, abducted from Findley Township, Pa., on Oct. 21, 1977, but her body was never found. Her boyfriend was found dead in a van.
He did not confess the slaying of Katherine Flicky, who was beaten to death with a frying pan in Boardman on March 27, 1978. The chief said Boardman had a warrant but dismissed it because Surratt was already serving life in prison.
Frost said Surratt did not sign a confession but verbally confessed to Joe Matthews, a retired Miami Beach detective, during the interview earlier this month. Surratt did not confess everything he's suspected of doing, the chief said.
Here was the deal
Frost said Surratt, in exchange for providing information, is expected to be granted his wish to be moved to better accommodations in a South Carolina prison.
Surratt, whose motive for killing was rape, is believed to have committed at least 18 murders, mostly in Pennsylvania, Frost said. Surratt knew this area because he had been a truck driver and attended Youngstown State University for one quarter, the chief said.
The chief said he's "ecstatic" to have the Beaver Township murders solved. No charges will be filed, but the cases are cleared, he said.
He said there are still some family members of victims John and Mary Davis in the area. A son of victims David and Linda Hamilton lives in Columbus.
"Yes, he confessed, but I don't know for sure if he did it," said Sharon Ruffner, of South Range Road, Salem, a daughter of the Davises. "It's too much, too soon."
Ruffner declined to comment further Monday night.
Frost has been working on the cold cases since the early 1980s when he became a detective. He said Surratt was always a suspect but there was no physical evidence.
The path to Surratt's confessions began when someone wrote the Davises' names on the Beaver police display at the Canfield Fair last year. It got Frost to thinking about the cold case again.
Frost said he chatted by phone with Thomas Hunker, police chief in Bal Harbour, Fla., who had questions about an unrelated case from 1980.
"Then I e-mailed him and asked if he would interview Surratt in prison," Frost said.
"[Hunker] knows the producer for 'America's Most Wanted' and he knew a great interviewer — Joe Matthews, who works for the show."
There's talk that "America's Most Wanted" will do a program about Surratt "somewhere down the road," Frost said.